Big Ten Friday mailbag

June, 17, 2011
6/17/11
4:30
PM ET
Today was my first day flying solo on the blog, as Adam is taking some time off. I haven't set anything on fire -- yet.

Let's cap things off with some of your emails:

Josh from Sparta, N.J., writes: Hi Brian, First off, Welcome to the Big Ten Blog!! Secondly, What game are you most looking forward to either covering or attending this upcoming season, and do you see a team that could come out of nowhere or the middle of the pack and make it to the conference championship game?

Brian Bennett: We don't have our game assignments yet, but I would like to experience a Michigan-Ohio State game. I think Nebraska's first two Big Ten games, at Wisconsin and at home against the Buckeyes, will be special. Penn State-Alabama should be quite a sight as well. I guess Adam and I will arm wrestle for those games.

As for some teams coming out of nowhere, I'll take Iowa as a potential surprise in the Legends Division. The Hawkeyes are usually at their best when they're flying under the radar, and the schedule is very manageable. The toughest road games are at Penn State and Nebraska, and Iowa misses both Ohio State and Wisconsin. In the Leaders Division, things may have opened up a bit with the Ohio State situation. I still like the Buckeyes and Badgers there, but Penn State could definitely be in the thick of the race heading into those difficult two final road games in Columbus and Madison.


Mike from Jackson, Mich, writes: Welcome to the B1G. Your green shows as there is nobody inside or outside of Happy Valley that would have picked JoePa as the premier coach of the league. SMH. Maybe 3 years ago, but Tressel was still king. You'd have to go back a decade to even consider it.

Brian Bennett: I don't know -- 401 wins, two national championships, 24 bowl wins and very few NCAA issues sounds pretty premier to me. I guess I'm naive, though.


Tom from PA writes: Your recent Take two about JoePa leads me to believe you are very smart and enlightened individual. So, since Adam consistently ignores this question ... I am hoping you'll give it your take: Why has almost no one poked the whole into the Nebraska over-inflated baloon? If you look at their record they lack any major wins over the past three years and no big bowl wins. Why do they and many ESPN analyst feel they are so "stacked?" I'm very curious to see how they do, I think they are more likely to come to a realization that the B1G is bit more difficult conference than the Big 12 North which could be also referred to as the Big 12 No-body's. What do you think?

Brian Bennett: I don't know that anybody is crowning the Cornhuskers, but this definitely feels like a program on the rise. Bo Pelini has led the team to back-to-back 10-win seasons and should now have a roster full of mostly his players in Year 4. So there's definite reason to like Nebraska as a potential Big Ten champion this season. But I do agree with your point about the Big 12 North. No doubt there were some good teams there and in the rest of the Big 12, but that conference has shown in bowl games that it doesn't always play a whole lot of defense. Nebraska is about to enter a different style of football, and it will be fascinating to see how it fares in its first year in the Big Ten. The schedule isn't easy, for sure.


Crosby from Pleasant Hill, Iowa, writes: I just want your thoughts on who you would want to see start the conference games for Nebraska. It seemed like we relied more on Taylor Martinez and let him do all the work, which in my opinion made him get that injury. Brion Carnes looked very good in the spring game, but I personally don't want another freshman to start. So what's your thought on the QB situation?

Brian Bennett: As long as T-Magic is healthy, he should be The Man. Clearly he wasn't nearly as effective when he wasn't able to use his legs to his full ability, and you wonder if he can hold up over a full season playing that way in this league. But he has the experience and should be the starter.


Ryan P. from Lebanon, Pa., writes: As you know, Ejuan Price is reconsidering his letter of intent to play for Ohio State. This week, he is playing in the Big 33 All Star Classic in Hershey, PA. Of 68 players in the game, I have counted 20 players (including Price) that have signed on to play at B1G schools. The game is Saturday... I think it would be a great article to mention pre-game thoughts on the players and then write a post game article about how you think they did. ... My family is a host family for a Pennsylvania Big 33 player every year (since 1996), however this year we have 2 players: Mike Wainauskis (Slippery Rock) and Shawn Oakman (Penn State).

Brian Bennett: I hope you have high ceilings for the 6-foot-9 Oakman. I like the Big 33 game and respect its tradition, but since I don't follow high school football that closely (we've got our hands full with the college guys, you know), my thoughts on the players beforehand wouldn't do anybody much good. But here's a link to the Pennsylvania and Ohio rosters, and on Monday I'll try to give a recap of how the Big Ten-bound players fared.


Eric from Waterloo, Iowa, writes: I know a lot of people are writing off the Hawks this year, but ponder this one for a tick...If Iowa happens to go undefeated or 1 loss, will they end up like Michigan State from last year (excluded from a BCS bowl)? The schedule isn't too daunting, so if they go on a tear will it take more time for the media to latch onto them?

Brian Bennett: Iowa may not get a ton of respect early if it starts ripping off a bunch of wins in a row. No one is going to yell "Stop the presses!" for wins over Iowa State and Pitt, and it's possible the Hawkeyes may not play a Top 20 team until Nov. 12 against Michigan State. But I wouldn't worry too much about missing a BCS bowl. That's a great benefit of the division format now. If Iowa wins the Legends Division, it will have more than proved its worth.


Ron from Carrollton, Texas, writes: Regarding the list of running backs in the Big Ten, the list looks pretty comprehensive. Just a quick thought on Michigan's running backs. Watch out for Thomas Rawls, the incoming freshman running back out of Flint, Mich. He's more of a north and south runner which tends to fit the mold of an Al Borges offense. I'm not saying Justice Hayes won't be a great running back, but he more or less tends to fit the spread offense.

Brian Bennett: Thanks, Ron. I had several Michigan people tell me to look out for Rawls. Consider him on the radar.


Rick from Denison, Texas, writes: From a national standpoint, would it have been better for the Big Ten to have an East-West divisional setup? That way people could know which one teams were in. East: Michigan, MSU, OSU, PSU, Purdue, Indiana. West: Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern. People can say those divisions are uneven all they want, but at the end of the day, Mich, OSU, PSU are in one division and Iowa, Neb, Wisc are in the other. That seems pretty equal to me.

Brian Bennett: I've got no issue with the way the Big Ten set up the divisions and think it is very fair. The league pretty clearly didn't want Ohio State and Michigan in the same division. I also agree with Dr. Saturday that the current divisions can easily be renamed East and West. There might be some small quibbles about the Michigan schools being in the West while Wisconsin is in the East, for example, but there certainly wouldn't be as much national ridicule as there is for Legends and Leaders.

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